This evening we continue our Celtic Kind of Advent with more reflections from the gospel of John.
One thing I like about the gospel of John is that it gives us space and time to think about, well, space and time. The other gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have more of a historical feel to them and are written to specific audiences to serve a specific purpose in communicating who Jesus is to that particular audience. They share many of the same stories and in the same order and are known collectively as the synoptic gospels, indicating that similarity to one another.
In contrast to the synoptic gospels, John kind of exists in an ‘out there’ kind of mindset and as John writes his chronicle of the life and times of Jesus, he takes some interesting turns. John tells some of the same stories as the other three gospels but usually in a different order and with always with a different literary style. John is much more concerned with Jesus being God incarnate, that is God made flesh and joining human kind, than he is in reporting any historical details. Which makes John pretty well suited for our reflections in Advent. As we make some space and some time this Advent season, it is good to reflect on the enormity of God’s incarnation into human form.
Think of that for a moment. Think of God being God and then deciding to join in the physical existence of the human race. On purpose. Before the beginning of all that is and ever has been, God in Christ was part of the grand plan. We claim to be people of the resurrection, and indeed we are but we are also people of the incarnation. But we don’t say that very often and we really should. We really should talk more about incarnation because it is what sets into motion everything else.
It is worth noting that we are all made from the space dust that has been flying around since the beginning of creation. Give THAT some thought. Every atom and particle that exists in the universe was created at the same time and that moment set in motion a creative event that ends up with stars burning at internal temperature of 27,000,000 degrees as well as humans walking around on the third rock from the sun. The building blocks inside the sun were created at the exact moment the building blocks inside of us were created. After all that space and time, God joins us in Jesus Christ.
Here’s what God was up to. We read in Genesis last week, “In the beginning” as God created all that is. God set into motion the grand cosmos we live in, situated as we are on the third rock from the sun. We are, here today, the result of that creative master stroke thus far.
And then, Jesus comes on the scene. Jesus, God incarnate, joins us in our pilgrimage here on earth for the purpose of transforming us into a new creation. Jesus the Word, Jesus the light.
As we talked about last week, light features prominently in the beginning of John’s gospel. Light is featured prominently but it isn’t so much a literal light that John is talking about. All this talk about light is a metaphor, giving us a reference point to think about. John isn’t suggesting Jesus is a group of photons emanating from a hydrogen based fusion reaction with a core temperature of 27,000,000 degrees that originated 8 minutes ago at about 93 million miles away from Earth. No, not at all.
Instead, John is referring to a light that we can’t see. John is telling us about something that is beyond our basic senses to apprehend but it fills us nonetheless. John is describing the experience of Christ. Experience of Christ? What is that? How can we experience a person who died 2000 years ago, was resurrected three days later and ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand 40 days after that?
Well, one example, and certainly one of my favorites, is when we come to the communion table. We don’t see the person of Christ hanging out at the table and the bread and the wine aren’t literally Christ’s body and blood. But it is at the table where we find the bread and wine where we do experience Christ’s real presence. Unless, of course, we have 30 dozen things on our minds and a checklist that’s run amok. That can make experiencing Christ something of a challenge. As our brains are filled with this, that, and the other thing it is easy to say the familiar words we say, going through the familiar motions we do and then miss out on actually experiencing Christ. But that never happens 3 weeks before Christmas, does it?
That is, in part, what Celtic styled worship is about. It is about space and time. Space to be together as the body of Christ and time to slow down a little bit. Time to slow down and have some moments of silence to help us with, to point us toward, the experience of Christ. The experience of Christ rather than only knowledge of Christ. Knowledge is good. I like knowledge. Knowledge is my stock in trade but… but… but it isn’t all there is.
There is making space and time to just experience Christ. Christ infusing our entire being, touching every one of the particles created so many billions of years ago. Experiencing Christ, not on our terms but on his. That’s kind of the hard part isn’t it? We’re too often tempted to put Christ on our checklist of things rather than having Christ be the center of everything.
Advent is a good reminder for us. A reminder to make some space and to make some time to experience Christ, the one we’re all waiting for.